The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Nessus and Deianira
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • French School, model and cast
  • Nessus and Deianira
  • France
  • c. 1690 - 1699 (model and cast)
  • Small bronze
  • Bronze. Gilt-bronze and marble base
  • Height: 19.6 cm, excluding base
    Terrain base, Length: 21.1 cm
    Height: 11.2 cm, with base
  • S187
  • East Drawing Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • All of the six surviving casts of this model, as well as casts of a group with Europa and the Bull with which they are often found paired, are considered to be French. Both models are documented as early as 1699 (when purchased in Paris for the Elector of Saxony), which brings the dating of their conception to c. 1690. However, the fact that the Nessus and Deianira clearly lacks a main point of view suggests that the composition might have been designed to be viewed from all sides, and that the Europa group was adapted from an entirely separate model to serve as a pendant at a subsequent stage.

    The group represents the last moments of the attempted rape of Deianeira, wife of Hercules, whom the Greek hero had asked the centaur Nessus to safely carry across a river. Nessus paid for his betrayal with his own life as Hercules shot him with a poisoned arrow.

    The group shows the centaur having already collapsed to the ground, desperately clutching the arrow in his chest, while Deianira leans away from him, her arms outstretched, wringing her hands in her despair.